Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Self-Deceit at the Heart of the Liberal World View

Jonathan Chait, he of The Righteous Mind, takes a look at the Democratic Party as the 2016 nomination battle winds down. He finds that, while Hillary Clinton has the delegates, Bernie Sanders has the sentiment. And the reason is not that he is a lefty, but that he is "the candidate of good government."

Or, as I like to say, Nobody here but us kindly librarians.

Chait continues:
American liberalism contains a long-standing tradition, dating back to the Progressive Era, of disdain for the grubby, transactional elements of politics. Good-government liberals prefer candidates who make high-minded appeals to the greater good, rather than transactional appeals to self-interest. The progressive style of politics was associated with the middle-class reformers and opposition to urban machines, and was especially fixated with rooting out corruption in politics... These candidates often have distinct and powerful issue positions, but their appeal rests in large part on the promise of a better, cleaner, more honest practice of politics and government.
This is the basic self-delusion at the heart of politics, the idea that the other guys are corrupt, unjust, and evil, and that once our guys are in power all will be sweetness and light.

My version of the history of American liberalism is that while the Progressives certainly started out imagining themselves as disinterested experts, the sons of the "best men" that were sought out after the Civil War, and positioned themselves as the opponents of the urban machines, in the event Franklin Delano Roosevelt squared the circle and created a Democratic Party that was a coalition of the good-government types and the urban machines, with loot and plunder for all. In my Three Peoples theory this coalition is between the People of the Creative Self and the People of the Subordinate Self.

It really is not very hard to understand. You appeal to educated types through the media; you appeal to workers and peasants through their segmental leaders, union leaders and precinct captains and black Reverends. And if the people are not already organized, you "organize" them with AstroTurf (i.e., not real grass roots but plastic) activist groups that pretend to be authentic voices of the people. That's why Nancy Pelosi immediately "knew" that the Tea Party was AstroTurf, organized by some of the richest people in America. It would have been, if it had grown out of the liberal world.

Writes Chait: "Candidates who have fashioned themselves in this earnest style have included Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, and Barack Obama."

No kidding. But the candidates that actually got to govern -- Carter, Brown, Obama -- revealed themselves as true machine politicians. In the case of Barack Obama this goes double, for Obama came out of the Chicago machine. But the experience of Obama governance is that there is now another machine, the gentry liberal patronage machine.

This new machine is the corps of activists and administrators that come out of the liberal activism world, ready to dive into the bureaucracy and implement, by executive and regulatory action, the gentry liberal agenda on consumer rights and the environment. They even have a bit of bandwidth left over for the labor unions, using the National Labor Relations Board to strong-arm Boeing around.

And what is the result of all this gentry-liberal activism? The result is injustice for ordinary, average Americans.

This is why I bash away at my catchphrases: government is force, government is injustice, politics is violence, politics is division, politics is civil war by other means. The idea is to put front and center that government is, by its nature, the opposite of social cooperation.

The point of social animals is to reduce, even eliminate, the resort to force among "us" in our community. But government and politics let loose the dogs of war, not just on the dangerous Vikings skulking off the coast the their longships, but against neighbors and friends.

My point is that every government program, for all that it professes to right injustice and help the people, is always an unjust attack on someone, a cruel injustice that loots some people for the benefit of others. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the gentry liberal program of green energy, where rich Democratic campaign contributors get billion dollar contracts and subsidies that result in raised electricity prices and job losses for energy workers.

The only way to reduce injustice is to reduce government.

In my view, the way to understand the Trump phenomenon is the realize how the good-government liberal politics has wreaked injustice on the white working class. I tried this line on a retired professor, saying that in 1968 liberals switched from class politics to race politics. Of course, he disagreed. To a liberal all the race politics that has fallen like acid rain upon the white working class is "civil rights," redressing the injustices of 400 years of slavery.

The only problem is that all government is injustice. In righting the wrongs of African Americans liberals have unjustly harmed the white working class which was during the centuries of slavery getting "hurled" off the land during the agricultural revolution. And now the white working class is angry.

Really, we should all hope that Donald Trump wins in November. If he does, the subsequent liberal navel-gazing will be something for the ages.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Jonathan Haidt (pronounced "height") wrote "The Righteous Mind", not this Chaidt fellow.